Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer tosses a football into the air while having pictures taken with his senior class leaders during media day Saturday at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. (AP Photo/Roanoke Times, Matt Gentry)
BLACKSBURG — Three weeks from Saturday.
That particular date on the calendar — Aug. 31, when Virginia Tech opens its football season against two-time defending national champion Alabama — was a hot topic when the Hokies players and coaches held their annual meet-and-greet with the media Saturday at Lane Stadium.
“We certainly have a lot of question marks still on our football team, it’s how many of those can we get solved and feel good about before we open up with a team like Alabama,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. “The other part of it is you realize how good they are. They are the best team in the country over the last few years, the best team by a wide margin in preseason voting this year, and I think it’s certainly justified.
“After that, let’s see where we are at and go play,” Beamer said. “It’s not often you get to play the best team in the country, so there’s some challenges in that regard. We’ve just got to keep practicing hard and keep improving right now, day to day.”
Those question marks Beamer mentioned include:
• Who’ll fill Antone Exum’s shoes while the All-Atlantic Coast Conference cornerback recovers from a knee injury;
• Having two true freshmen, Jon McLaughlin and Parker Osterloh, listed at the top of the depth chart at left tackle;
• A lack of depth at tailback;
• Uncertainty at receiver, where dropped passes in practice continue to be troublesome.
One position new offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler seems unconcerned with is quarterback.
Loeffler says he and redshirt senior signal-caller Logan Thomas have developed a rapport — “I wish to goodness that I could coach him the rest of my career, to say the least,” Loeffler said. “I love being around him.” — and the staff has seen Thomas fully take on the mantle of leadership.
“I think he understands, ‘Hey, this is his team’ and he’s more take charge,” Beamer said. “Logan handles it really well and how he handles taking charge, I think he does it in a good way, a very natural way. I think he has good respect from the players.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Thomas said of being the team leader. “That’s what I expected and what everybody expects out of a quarterback.”
The Hokies finished a disappointing 7-6 last season, leading Beamer to revamp his offensive staff, including bringing in Loeffler and quarterbacks coach Aaron Moorehead.
Beamer says the team is adapting well to the new coaches and the new offensive look they’ve installed.
“I think we’re good. I like what we’re doing, I like how we’re doing it,” Beamer said. “You know, now, it’s to be able to function on Saturday, but I know we’re really working hard to get there.
The Hokies learned some lessons from last season, and not just from the disappointing parts.
“I think that what happened last year, we understand there’s a real thin line between being OK and not being OK. That you’ve got to play every play, prepare for every team. It’s hard to win football games. So yeah, I think all those things became very clear to us last year,” he said.
“And then the other thing, I’ve talked about this a bunch, I think how we ended also makes a great statement from last year. We didn’t give up when things didn’t look good. We gave effort ... and I think there’s things — both sides of it, positive and negative — that we can learn from it. I think we have. I think you ask any kid, I think we have.”
The Hokies held the first of two open scrimmages Saturday night. Their only other open scrimmage is scheduled for Aug. 17.